An Open Letter To Every Ambitious Junior Manager In The World From Your Mostdedicated Supporter, Me
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Author's program note. In 1961 New York City went to work with a smile on its face and a can't-help-but-like-it rhythm on the brain. It was Robert Morse and the ensemble of "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" by author Shepherd Mead and composer Frank Loesser.

It is a story of corporate ascension, told through the mischievous eyes of J. Pierrepont (Ponty) Finch.... and, if corporate elysium was your goal, you just couldn't get enough of this "I'm destined for success" production.

One of the most clever tunes in this so-very-clever show was "I believe in you," in which Ponty stands in front of a mirror and serenades his most enduring supporter -- himself. Now, before you begin this article about your success, go to any search engine to find this number. Then get prepared to let the irrepressible Morse, with that killer grin, provide the musical incense to waft you on your way.

Dear Junior Manager....

Every successful person in the world (including Ponty) has had something which you too must get... and which is now available to you and not a moment too soon.

Woodrow Wilson had Colonel House. Franklin D. Roosevelt had Harry Hopkins. Queen Victoria had Prince Albert while Prince Albert had Baron Stockmar... In other words, part of the kit of every successful person everywhere is the disinterested, devoted-to-you, completely honest and fearlessly outspoken confidential advisor. And now you join the ranks of these with your brand new completely candid counselor, coach, and goad... me. Nice to meet you, partner!

Here's your situation. You are now a junior manager, a member of your company's management cadre. Your foot on the first rung of business success, just. Congratulations, the thousand mile journey starts with a single step. Now the game becomes moving up the corporate ladder as quickly and nimbly as possible, leaving your less agile and well advised competitors in the dust. Here's your first installment of insider information.

!) Your attitude determines your altitude.

Did you ever notice how really successful people maintain an upbeat "can do" attitude, even when (maybe especially when) the going gets rough? As Henry Ford II famously said, "You think you can. You think you can't. Either way you're right." Success seekers know that the right attitude is the essential attribute for facing each day of what can often be a most complicated, difficult, and daunting business, your life.

2) Know the players.

In every organization, there are people who matter... and people who don't. Your job, whilst always being pleasant and amicable to all, is to identify the power players, the players who are where they are with the powers they have for one reason and one reason only -- to abet you in your upward mobility. Successful people are discriminating people. They know time is fleeting and that each day is an opportunity to move up... movement that can be either assisted or blocked by those currently higher in the pecking order. It is your job to make a knowledgeable friend with the business, someone older, wiser, better placed than you are... someone like the CEO's long-time secretary and executive assistant. She knows things which you need to know. Make it a point to introduce yourself.... start the relationship off by being bright, cheerful, friendly, and always respectful and grateful for their willingness to assist -- you. Make it a point particularly to greet this important contact daily; insinuate by bringing a dough-nut, a flower from the garden... and always your best manners and winning smile, always necessary.

Important insights: never wait for an introduction to the people you want and need to meet. Presumption is the root of success... presume that these people want to meet someone who's as dedicated to the success of the enterprise as you are. You can, of course, after you've begun to develop that crucial relationship with your important inside source, ask that individual to introduce you. Remember, timing is everything; you cannot ask for introductions too soon... and you should never wait too long to request them. Too, you must never ask for too many. You'll find out from your confidential source who is essential for you to know for openers... keep your eye on meeting, and impressing, this person, a rung in your ladder.

3) With friendship towards all, with intimacy with few.

Have you ever watched the people of your business as they come to work, who they greet, josh and joke with -- and ignore. Now hear this: EVERYONE in your company, from the obvious highest to the often forgotten lowest has a place in your upward mobility. Most people, not as well advised as you of course, close relationships which it is easy and useful to maintain. Sure the custodian may not be the sharpest tool in the shed; it costs you nothing to treat this person with friendliness and good manners; someday you'll be glad for that relationship, because I can assure you he has information that you will need... and which you'll be grateful he gives you. In short, never disdain anyone. That is what the unenlightened and feckless do... not you!

4) Listen to the grumblers; never become one.

In every company there exists a group of grumblers, who have long ago forgotten (if indeed they ever knew) that assisting the business grow and thrive must be their goal, not denigrating it at every turn. Such grumblers are often headed by an overweight diva named Trudy whose motor mouth and nasty hygiene offend everyone. You must learn how to handle such people, just so. Always listen respectfully to what they say; there may, after all, be something worth hearing mixed into the bile. Maintain friendly, professional relations. But never, never join or be perceived as a part of this noisome claque. Such people are poison to your certain ascension.

Your task with such people is to establish and maintain what diplomatists call "correct" relations, relations which are totally and completely professional, which keep the door open, but never demand you go through. Remember, information is power. Remember, too, ALL information is useful at a particular point. Thus gather what is useful, to be retained and used later as necessary and useful for -- you.

5) Be conscious at all times.

People who succeed are people of discernment, perception, judgement. They do not, as those who fail do, ever stop being aware. Too many people, including many who work at your company (but never including you) have long ago slipped into the rut of merely going through the motions of what is required to do their job. They have lost consciousness of what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how what they are doing can be used for their advancement. Dropping into this state of oblivion is absolutely fatal and can never be allowed.

You must do things very differently.

If you want the kind of organizational advancement with all its perqs as you say you do, then you must stay alert, conscious, always scrutinizing, analyzing, aiming for complete and total awareness of your situation and what you must do every day to advance, advance, advance!

And so our session for today ends, the first I trust of many. For I intend to provide you, over a long duration, the kind of rare and insightful advice at once desirable, hard to find and yet so necessary. By all means, come visit my blog, a site entirely dedicated to your success and always awaiting you. For you see, as Robert Morse sang in his signature number, "I believe in you..."


Street Talk

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